Rugged Individualism

I might as well say this up front–I hate this mindset. The rugged individualist would have you believe that ze is completely self-sufficient, or at least mostly so.

Bovine dung.

Rugged individualism denies the very foundation of our society, the basis for our ability to progress as we do–interdependence. We all rely on others to greater or lesser degrees, and while some people believe that they don’t, they are only self-reliant within the confines of our society, culture, and economic system. We would not be where we are today without being dependent on other people to some degree. Without those foundations, most of us would be struggling to merely survive, and our current standard of living would be impossible.

For example, here’s a quick list of people I’m relying on right now just to produce this blog post:

  • the electric company for the power needed to power my computer
  • Apple computers, for building and programming the machine I’m currently using
  • various cable and phone companies for providing the internet services that allow this post to be read
  • WordPress for hosting this blog
  • school teachers who taught us all how to read and wri–erm, type

And that’s not even a comprehensive list.  For a single blog posting.

Without the ability to rely on others, we would never have gotten much past the hunter-gatherer level of society.  Dependence gives security–I don’t need to worry about where to get food because I am able to rely on my local grocery store to provide me some.  We have agreed on a system of exchange that allows this. As a result, I am able to spend my time and energy elsewhere.  More importantly, I am able to dedicate a significant portion of my time to building a specialized skillset. The computer you’re on? Would never have been created if the engineers and programmers behind it had had to spend time finding food, securing shelter, and making their own clothes. The specialization needed for us to progress as a society is only possible because we are able to rely on others to help us meet our needs.

Unless you’re living in the wilderness and out of contact with other humans, you are not really self-reliant.  And if you are,  you’re not reading this blog post.

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